Tech Guide

The Apple Watch will soon do a better job of tracking your workout at gyms — here's how

Key Points
  • New gym equipment syncs directly with the Apple Watch using Apple's GymKit tools.
  • CNBC had a chance to check out a new treadmill to see how it works.
  • It's pretty flawless, and after a quick tap, your workout data from a gym machine syncs directly with your Apple Watch.
Using a GymKit treadmill with Apple Watch

The Apple Watch does a fine job of tracking your exercise if you're running or walking around.

But it sometimes has trouble giving accurate readings if you work out at a gym — for instance, it might not understand that you're climbing virtual stairs on a stair-stepper, or understand the incline on a cross-trainer or treadmill.

Workout machines don't give a particularly accurate view of your exercise on their own, either. Typically, people get on an exercise machine without entering in their height, weight, gender and age — all details that are imperative to getting an accurate measurement of calories burned.

Apple is trying to change all that with its GymKit platform. It enables gym equipment makers, including Life Fitness and Technogym, to add new functions to treadmills, stepping machines and stationary bikes. If you're wearing an Apple Watch, you'll be able to tap a small area on the treadmill, begin working out, and all of the data on the machine and the watch will sync up.

You won't have to worry about manually starting or ending a workout on your Watch. At any moment while using a machine you can start the process, and all previous data from your workout will sync with your Apple Watch and Apple Health.

"We wanted to make this a smooth experience," Apple told CNBC in a briefing on Monday. "We wanted it to be as simple as Apple Pay. The idea of setting something up in public with Bluetooth pairing was a nonstarter. It had to be tap and go."

I tested Apple's claims and yes, it's just as simple as Apple Pay. I think fitness nuts are going to love it.

First, you step up on a machine. In this case, I'm standing on a treadmill.

Using Apple GymKit on an Apple Watch
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Look for the "Connects to Apple Watch logo." If it has that, your machine is ready to go. Then, just tap your Apple Watch against the NFC reader. Wait for a chime to confirm the connection.

Syncing an Apple Watch with a treadmill
Todd Haselton | CNBC

You'll get an alert the first time that asks if you're OK sharing data with the machine. After the first time, you can just tap and go.

Setup is a breeze
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Now you can choose to walk or run.

I'm connected to the treadmill now
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Or just hit any button on the treadmill to start a workout.

I can just hit Quick Start to begin working out
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Now I'm moving and getting my heart rate up. The data on my watch....

Data is flowing in
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Matches exactly with the data on my screen behind it.

My watch data matches the machine behind it
Todd Haselton | CNBC

When you're done you get a summary of your workout on your Apple Watch.

A summary of my quick workout
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Overall, GymKit makes the Apple Watch a lot more useful for people who work out at gyms. It's super simple and unlike anything I've ever seen before.

There's only one problem: The technology is ready, but it'll take months or years to hit most gyms. Newer gyms from Lifetime Athletic, Equinox and others will launch with GymKit-enabled machines right away. Apple also said it's easy to retrofit older machines with modules that slip right into the back, so keep an eye out for the "Connect with Apple Watch" the next time you step on a treadmill.